Dan Doctoroff

Hey, Boston 2024, it's not US(OC) -- it's you


Hey, Boston 2024. It's not US(OC). It's you. You have rightly earned the execution that common sense and political reality says you deserve on Monday.

Boston 2024 organizing committee 1.0 budget, with $471 million somewhere up in the air // Boston 2024

It's this elemental. The International Olympic Committee is holding its annual get-together later this week, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At that meeting the IOC will select its 2022 Winter Games city, either Beijing or Almaty, Kazakhstan. The U.S. Olympic Committee simply cannot put itself in the position of going to a meeting at which the IOC is going to select an Olympic city without itself having a viable Olympic bid.

The USOC has given Boston 2024 time to prove itself. Too much time, to be blunt. But now time is up.

It's thus time to accept the inevitable and look ahead to what's next if the USOC has any hope for winning in 2024: Los Angeles.

In 1984, Los Angeles saved the Olympic movement. Now LA has to save the USOC.

And maybe win for 2024. Los Angeles is an Olympic city. It is America's Olympic city.

Recent events have pointed out the vivid contrast between Los Angeles and Boston.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of fans went to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Games. The city of Los Angeles is spending $12 to $15 million in in-kind services in support of the World Games. A torch relay rolled through town before the ceremony.

Boston, meanwhile, has over the past six months proven to the world what most stereotypically consider its worst trait -- coming off as an insulated, angry group of navel-gazing NIMBYs who don't trust outsiders and don't think there is anything in the world that is better or can be improved about the place.

The Hub? Ha.

This Boston bid is so wretched that it has now emboldened Toronto -- which staged he Pan American Games this month -- to seriously consider a candidacy. Let's say Toronto ultimately jumps in. How is the USOC supposed to make the case for another city in the eastern time zone? Against a competitor that is hip, trendy and readily touts its status as the fourth-biggest city in North America? (Mexico City, New York, LA.)

On Friday, the Boston 2024 bid committee released the damning last details of Bid 1.0.

In December, the bid presented certain assertions to the USOC. In January, when Boston was selected, an amazing number of changes had been made. Later still, more changes.

Never even mind the trivial stuff, done for PR purposes, maybe, such as Patriots owner Robert Kraft originally said in December to be on board but mysteriously gone by January.

In the December file: a $471 million revenue gap in the committee's proposed operating budget. January: no mention of that gap or the fact that additional revenues would be needed.

$471 million? Not accounted for? What, it just vanished? No explanation?

December: opposition to the bid characterized as minimal. “Four local activists formed a group in opposition to our bid, and while we respect their differing views and their right to promote them, our polling data shows that they do not represent the majority of public opinion,” Boston 2024 wrote. “No elected official has publicly endorsed the group, they have not received significant financial backing and their efforts have been limited to social media.”

Reality: poll numbers have been -- from the start -- dismal, approvals now in the 30s or 40s. Opposition is a solid 50. The IOC won't go for those numbers. No way.

The televised debate last Thursday between USOC board member Dan Doctoroff and Boston 2024 bid leader Steve Pagliuca, on the one hand, and No Boston Olympics co-chair Chris Dempsey and Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist, on the other -- it was always going to be a Hail Mary.

It ended up being most memorable for Zimbalist's observation that the bid committee's numbers reflected "drunken optimism." And of course the scene of Doctoroff, who is one of the smartest people anyone could ever meet, being portrayed -- predictably -- as the New York wise guy coming to tell the Boston people what they should do.

Back to December: no referendum. Now: referendum in November 2016.

This alone offers the USOC the easy way out. The IOC's Olympic Agenda 2020, president Thomas Bach's would-be reform plan,  considers the time before September 15, when applicants must be formalized, an "invitation" phase -- when bids are explored in a less-formal sense than before.

The IOC could rightly insist that any such referendum be held before "applicants" become "candidates," which would enable the IOC to kill off Boston early on in its IOC process, causing the USOC -- and the Olympic movement in the United States -- damage for years to come.

All the USOC has to do is hang its hat on Agenda 2020 -- that is, say Boston was an exploratory matter and switch to LA.

The details released Friday don't give the USOC any choice, really.

It would appear that Boston lied, cheated or misrepresented to win in the domestic phase against LA, San Francisco and Washington.

So which is it -- lying, cheating or misrepresenting?

Whichever --  the USOC can't be in the position of aligning itself with an effort where that is a central question.

Note that the Boston people didn't defend what was released in Bid 1.0. Instead, they said the focus now is on 2.0, released in late June. So telling.

If you are the USOC, one, how do you live with that? You hold yourself out to be the standard for the highest sorts of ethical conduct. Yet you would allow people to misrepresent, cheat or lie to you? You accept that -- you look not only foolish but incompetent.

Two, USOC board chair Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun have spent five years doing good work in the international arena. Should they now go abroad now and expect to be asked, which is it -- lying, cheating or misrepresenting -- and why in the world would you be sticking with this effort?

And there's more.

-- Boston 2024 fundraising? Millions of dollars, yes, but in the low single digits when the number that would be needed is roughly $75 million. Boston 2024 says, in essence, trust us. Query: why? On what basis has Boston 2024 earned public or corporate trust?

-- Mayor Marty Walsh's dithering on the host city contract.

-- Governor Charlie Baker? He has more information at this stage of the bid process than any elected official in history. (Not an overstatement.) And, still, he purportedly can't make up his mind.

These make up the financial and political currents that, finally, would reasonably compel the USOC to action.

You can't run a winning Olympic bid without strong -- indeed, unwavering -- political support.

The USOC, according to an Associated Press report, pushed Baker for support last Friday. (Did the USOC deny the report? Hardly.)

He responded by saying he's still waiting for a consulting report, due out in August.

The governor is due to call in Monday to the USOC's teleconference on 2024. He is on record as saying he's going to tell the USOC board the very same thing he said Friday: he's waiting for that report.

You can understand why, with the poll numbers in the tank, the governor might want to keep his distance.

Compare to Los Angeles:

Poll numbers in the high 70s. The mayor, Eric Garcetti, eager to bring the Games to town. The city council -- 15 members -- unanimously in support. Same for the five-person county board of supervisors: unanimously in support. Backing as well from all around Southern California, including the mayors of towns such as Santa Monica and Pasadena, where events would be held. The governor -- Jerry Brown, everyone -- on board, too, with a signed letter of support to the USOC. The leaders of the state legislature -- they're in support, too.

Indeed, Los Angeles provided to the USOC the signatures of the governor and state senate and Assembly leadership, what in California political circles is called the "Big Five." That letter got done in one day. What does that show? Not only that LA is America's Olympic city. But it's where Olympic stuff gets done.

This is all public. This is all on the record.

Behind the scenes, meanwhile, the IOC has made it clear what should be done. It knows, too, that change is hard and that a switch out of Boston might yield one rough week of bad PR for the USOC. But then that will be that, and the IOC will have what it wants -- a credible American candidate.

That's why, too, the time is now for the switch to LA -- to recognize the inevitable, and move forward.

Time for a shot at winning a 2024 race that might yet be winnable.


#USOCGoHome: seriously, how bad can this get?


Here is a group from the Rome 2024 campaign. They met Thursday at International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, with, among others, the IOC president, Thomas Bach. Afterward, it was all smiles.  

Just some of the Rome 2024 delegation with IOC president Thomas Bach //  Twitter

Now let’s search for a Boston 2024 group picture with Bach.

Oh, wait.

You mean there aren’t any? Not even one over the past six months?

Ladies and gentlemen, you know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words.

To reiterate a point made often in this space, there is only one reason to play the Olympic bid game. It’s to win.

Boston 2024 is not a winner.

The Pan American Games are going on right now in Toronto. Guess who was there just a few days ago? Bach. It’s not far from Toronto to Boston, if you had the inclination to, say, talk up the advantages of Agenda 2020, the IOC’s would-be reform plan.

In bid offices overseas, they have to be gleeful at how bad this Boston 2024 effort is. Because what should be a time for an American bid to shine is, instead, day after day, week after week, a succession of headlines that figuratively scream, how bad can this get?

Indeed, if you’re Toronto, aren’t you thinking a good Pan Ams might just jumpstart your way into the 2024 race? The way it did for Rio de Janeiro in 2007 en route to IOC victory in 2009 for 2016?

The Canadian Olympic Committee even shrewdly put on a gala event in Montreal — where Bach won his gold medal in fencing in 1976. He was the special invited guest, and grew emotional in his reminiscing.

Just what the USOC needs — another contender in the eastern time zone.

In Paris this week, a huge crowd gathered on the Champ de Mars to celebrate Bastille Day and the launch of Paris 2024. The president of France was there. The mayor of Paris. Bid leaders. More than 100 athletes. The Eiffel Tower was lit up.

The Eiffel Tower lit for Paris 2024 and Bastille Day // Paris 2024

In Boston on Thursday, the two top USOC officials met with Mayor Marty Walsh — again, zero photo op — and afterward put out a well-intentioned news release.

But even that release made plain why Boston 2024 is a bad slog.

"We’re pleased to have the support of the Mayor and look forward to working with Steve Pagliuca and the entire team at Boston 2024 to make this bid a success,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun was quoted as saying.

Fascinating. Where was the governor, Charlie Baker?

Amazing that Blackmun, along with USOC board chair Larry Probst, could fly all the way to Boston, and take a meeting with the mayor, but the governor was available only by phone.

What the governor is doing right now is waiting for a report from consultants. They’re supposed to assess whether the Boston 2024 plan, dubbed Bid 2.0 in a release made public June 29, is financially feasible.

This is hardball realpolitik.

If this report comes back — next month, probably — and says Bid 2.0 would be a hard sell financially, the governor has the out he needs.

Without key political support, any Olympic bid is a dead-bang loser.

But that’s exactly where Boston 2024 is already.

Compare: in Lausanne Thursday, the Rome delegation was led by the mayor and included a senior representative from the prime minister’s office. That’s important generally but more so now for Rome because the former prime minister was the one who, in February 2012, pulled the plug on Rome’s 2020 effort.

Baker, as demonstrated again Thursday, has shown distance in his approach to Boston 2024.

When Bid 2.0 was released, meanwhile, Walsh — and it’s a bid city mayor who has to sign a host city contract — was nowhere near the scene.

Check Walsh’s Twitter account. There’s he’s a rah-rah cheerleader of sorts, posting regularly — in the last couple weeks, for instance, sending congrats to the U.S. women’s World Cup soccer champs, even wishing the Dalai Lama happy birthday. The last time he posted something about the bid? That appears to be a little over five weeks ago, when he declared, “I will not use public money to build Olympic venues.”

You wonder why Walsh would keep his remove, at least in public, from Boston 2024?

Let us count the ways:

— Post-Bid 2.0 poll numbers in favor of the project range from 37 percent to 42. Worse, 50 percent opposed. That 42 percent is the current WBUR poll; for anyone inclined to say it’s an improvement over last month’s 39 percent reading, that very slight increase falls within the margin of error.

— A stadium design that is estimated at $1.376 billion. For something due to be torn down. This at a time when cost estimates for the Tokyo 2020 stadium have spiraled north of $2 billion, up some $700 million from the original estimate. Who seriously believes that $1.376 billion would be the final number?

— Agenda 2020 is big on the use of existing and temporary venues. Nowhere does Agenda 2020 promote the idea of a temporary $1.376 billion facility. That runs counter not only to policy but common sense.

— Bid 2.0 features no plan yet for an aquatics center or velodrome and a media center priced out at a laughably low $51 million. How can taxpayers be expected to know whether there might be cost overruns when there are no costs to begin with?

— And, as longtime Olympic reporter John Powers points out in the Boston Globe, “What began as an intimate and walkable scheme — the non-LA alternative — now involves half a dozen counties and five of the state’s six largest cities.”

Too, the Globe reports, there’s suddenly going to be a public debate on Boston 2024. On the one side, there’ll be bid chairman Pagliuca and Dan Doctoroff, a former deputy New York mayor and New York 2012 bid leader who is now on the USOC board of directors. On the other, Chris Dempsey, a co-chair of the opposition group No Boston Olympics, and Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist.

Pagliuca is a basketball guy. But this debate next Thursday is less two-on-two than the feel of something more evocative of football: it’s the Boston 2024 version of a political Hail Mary.

Like, just to be obvious, especially when there are locals who are affiliated with the USOC board of directors: why invite the New York guy to woo the gentle folk of Boston? Should he wear a Yankees cap for full effect?

In Boston, what was the top trending hashtag Thursday? “#USOCGoHome”

Also Thursday, as the Globe reported, a group opposed to public funding for an Olympics filed papers with the state attorney general, aiming to put a question on the November 2016 ballot that would largely prohibit the state from spending money to support the Games.

The USOC has a Sept. 15 deadline by which it must decide what to do.

Upcoming next is the IOC session in Kuala Lumpur, at the end of the month. There you can bet senior USOC officials will hear the same thing they heard in Toronto — you’re making this unbelievably hard and you need to do something to change it.

The answer is so blindingly obvious.

Again, the idea is to win, and to do so within the constraints of Agenda 2020. It’s not to engage in 20- or 30-year urban planning; that’s the lesson from Sochi 2014, and the $51 billion figure associated with those Olympics. Indeed, the unhappy fallout from that $51 billion clearly animates Agenda 2020’s call for restraint.

In Los Angeles, the stadium is a real thing.

Not only that, it was announced this week that USC, which now controls the LA Memorial Coliseum, reportedly has chosen Fox Sports to sell naming rights to the venue.

USC is committed to renovating the facility. Renovations figure to be in the $600 million range. Naming rights figure to bring in huge dollars; the Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Games, among other spectacles, has never had a naming rights partner.

At the same time, the NFL appears closer than ever to being back in LA. Hello, Coliseum rent.

USC is acting boldly.

The USOC could, too — and here’s how.

The newest initiative on the Olympic scene is what are called the "ANOC World Beach Games." They are now being pushed, and hard, by one of the most influential people in the Olympic scene, Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah.

The sheikh is the president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees and, as well, the Olympic Council of Asia.

The first edition of the Beach Games? Perhaps as soon as the summer of 2017.

The 2024 vote? August 2017.

What’s going to be the hot ticket at the Rio 2016 Olympics? Beach volleyball.

Worldwide, everyone knows the home of beach culture: Southern California.

Would it really be that difficult to stage a Beach Games — and win incredible goodwill — in, say, Venice, California?

Venice is hip, urban, has a famous stretch of beach and, not incidentally, is now the home of Snapchat, the way young people increasingly talk to each other. The Beach Games assuredly is aimed at the demographic the Olympic movement has had such difficulty reaching, teens and young 20s.


Also imagine: the IOC is said to be very supportive of this ANOC proposal. At the same time, IOC rules prohibit members from visiting bid cities. But, you know, what about seeking a waiver for those interested in seeing the Beach Games?

If that notion would work the IOC ethics people into a frenzy, there’s always San Diego. It got cut from the USOC 2024 list but is known since to have expressed interest in the Beach Games. San Diego is not Los Angeles; just ask anyone in San Diego. But say what? San Diego is only a two-hour drive away?

This, of course, underscores the fallacy of the no-visit rule. But that’s a topic for another day.

Right now, the days are counting down to Sept. 15. Kill the Boston bid. It's time for the USOC to move with boldness, creativity and resourcefulness. The United States deserves at least a winning chance at pictures with the president of the IOC that are all smiles.

What we have here is a bait-and-switch

Rule No. 1 of politics is look after yourself. Thus the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts have to be ever-so-quietly tripping over themselves in a race to bring the execution hammer down, and hard, on Boston 2024. What we have here, friends, is a situation that is not good and is not going to get better. This space said so nearly two months ago in urging the relevant authorities to pull the bid. It’s actually worse now than then, and here’s why: Boston 2024 has devolved into a bait-and-switch, and if all involved would just step back and see it for what it is, and has become, they would be well-advised — for their own self-preservation — to kill it now.

Before it truly gets ugly.

This means — especially — the U.S. Olympic Committee, too.

What we have here, bottom line, is one of the most inexplicable failures in recent Olympic memory of due diligence.

Forget for a moment about being the mayor of Boston or governor of Massachusetts. If you were the mayor, governor or president of the chamber of commerce representing one of the nearly three dozen cities that got looked at and passed over in the course of this WTF process, wouldn’t you start wondering about matters such as “accountability” and “oversight”? To whom might you direct your concerns?

Further, who now should have a high level of confidence in the USOC to run a bid process? Considering: Chicago 2016? New York 2012? Now this for 2024?

The USOC 2024 process

The USOC embarked in February 2013 on a path designed to gauge interest in the 2024 Summer Games. It sent out letters to the mayors of 35 cities.

In June 2014, the USOC cut that list to four: Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

Last Dec. 16, the four cities made presentations behind closed doors to the USOC board of directors.

On Jan. 8, the board picked Boston.

Ultimately, San Francisco and DC were never going to be viable, each for different reasons. The contest, really, got down to LA and Boston.

Boston was chosen, purportedly because of the walkability of many of its venues centered around its collection of colleges and universities; the strength of its leadership team, featuring businessman John Fish; and its “athlete-focused vision” for the Games.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, in a news release, when Boston was picked: the USOC “couldn’t be more excited about the strong partnership we’ve established with the leadership team in Boston,” primarily Fish and Mayor Marty Walsh.

USOC board chair Larry Probst: “We’re excited about our plans to submit a bid for the 2024 Games and feel we have an incredibly strong partner in Boston that will work with us to present a compelling bid.”

But wait.

What about the vocal, local opposition?

In Los Angeles, poll numbers in favor of the Games ran to the high 70s. Those kinds of numbers are virtually unheard-of in a democracy.

At that closed-door meeting in December, Walsh either did — or did not — say there was no “real opposition” in Boston.

It simply could not be the case that there was no opposition.

Poll numbers in favor of the Games have consistently run about or under 50 percent, dropping as low as into the 30s. Opposition has been organized and loud. When asked if public funds would be used, opposition to the Games skyrockets.

How could the USOC have so failed to vet Boston appropriately?

The Boston situation

Since the day Boston was selected, the situation has gone from bad to worse.

There has been misstep after misstep — public relations, organizational, political.

Some have been widely publicized, including the blunder by Angela Ruggiero, the U.S. hockey star and now International Olympic Committee member, who on Monday told the Boston city council, “Right now, the USOC is going through a similar vetting process to make sure Boston is the right city. So there’s no guarantee Boston will be the city in September,” when the IOC requires a formal submission of bids.

Strike one: wasn’t that vetting — in other terms, that due diligence — supposed to have been done by January, when the USOC made its choice?

Strike two: “no guarantee”? Yikes.

Some missteps have not been picked up the mainstream press, which typically is not keyed in to the dynamics of the Olympic bid scene. For instance, the world alpine ski championships were held in Vail, Colorado, in February, the biggest Olympic sports event in the United States in years. The IOC president himself, Thomas Bach, showed up. Did Fish?

And you wonder why in IOC spheres they look at us in the United States and ask why we can’t get our stuff together in these bid races? To date, and this is being gentle, in international circles the talk is this Boston bid has not particularly advanced American chances in 2024. Beyond that, what has happened in the United States has emboldened the likes of Paris, Hamburg, Rome and others.

Back to the particulars of the Boston bid itself.

It’s one thing in an Olympic campaign for there to be tweaks to a bid. But what is now the Boston 2024 bid bears almost no resemblance to the “plan” that got selected in January.

It's worth asking now whether there was actually a “plan.”

That is a huge, indeed fundamental if not unforgivable, part of the problem as it is now.

Instead of walkability, now there is discussion — purportedly spurred by the IOC’s Agenda 2020 would-be reform platform — of having events anywhere and everywhere. All over New England. Chicago, maybe. What about New York?

That’s not fair and that’s not right to the other three dozen cities who started out in this process; it’s especially not fair and not right to LA and, as well, to San Francisco and DC.

To use a distinctly American expression: that’s shifting the goal line once the game starts. Putting it another way — that’s not the American way to play ball.

Again, how could the USOC have made such a fundamental miscalculation?

As for Fish — he is apparently being relegated to the sidelines.

Rich Davey was not part of the bid team that presented to the USOC. Now he is the Boston 2024 chief executive.

Rich Davey, now the Boston 2024 CEO // Getty Images

Steve Pagliuca, said to be in line to be Boston 2024 chairman // Getty Images

Steve Pagliuca, the Bain Capital executive and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, was not part of the bid team. Now he is purportedly in line to become chairman of the Boston bid.

Again, you make a deal with a guy — Fish — and then five months later he seemingly has been told, thanks, dude, see you, and yet you expect everyone else from around the country who took part in the "process" to shrug and carry on as if it’s business as usual? Again, not right and not fair.

If from the get-go the USOC was determined to avoid a repeat of the New York 2012 and Chicago 2016 defeats, there’s this — bid leader Dan Doctoroff from the start was an integral part of the New York effort, bid chief Pat Ryan the same for Chicago. You can’t pin the New York or Chicago losses on either of them. Indeed, Doctoroff since March has been a member of the USOC board of directors; in 2010, the USOC gave Ryan a major award for his efforts on behalf of Chicago 2016.

Big picture:

The Boston “plan” has changed. Leadership has changed. If you think you’re buying an apple and five months later, it’s a lemon, what have you got? What word, or words, would you use to describe that situation?

The referendum conundrum

All this, and we still haven’t gotten to the most unfortunate part of this entire Boston 2024 deal.

The referendum.

No way, absolutely no way, can you expect to make this all about a referendum in November 2016 that aims toward an IOC vote the next summer for the 2024 winner.

Most likely, the referendum would pass. Fifty percent plus one is probably a no-brainer in a blue state with a Democratic candidate running for president of the United States.

Who cares?

It needs to pass by 70 percent. That’s the number the IOC wants to see to feel welcomed.

The fatal flaws here are multiple.

One, 70 percent amounts to very, very tricky math in a democratic (small-d) environment that’s not named “Los Angeles” and doesn’t enjoy the warm memories of the 1984 Olympics.

Two, if the USOC opts to stick with Boston, it guarantees all of us 14 months, from September 2015 until November 2016, of intensified, galvanized, polarized opposition to the bid. The USOC is going to be trying to run two campaigns simultaneously — one aimed at winning the referendum, the other aimed at wooing IOC members. Opponents, who have made plain they understand social media, are going to prove relentless.

If the referendum passes — be sure the opposition is hardly going to give up.

Does this sound like a winning recipe for inviting the IOC to town?

Three, Walsh has been all over the map with this. The day after Boston was chosen, he said, no referendum. Two weeks later, his office issued a statement saying he was “not in support of a referendum,” but adding, “Should the public decide to collect signatures for a referendum, that is a right of the people that the mayor fully supports.”

In March, Fish announced there would be a statewide referendum, saying the mayor along with Gov. Charlie Baker and the USOC were on board.

Now the USOC has committed itself to a strategy that is wholly dependent on the due diligence it should have rightfully done before making its choice.

Which, obviously, it could have avoided altogether by picking Los Angeles.

Disclaimer: I live in Los Angeles. This has nothing to do with what comes next.

You wonder why the USOC didn’t go the easy route — especially when the headlines this week are all about the new $250-million, privately financed, 22,000-seat soccer stadium that’s going to go up in LA at the site of the old Sports Arena, just steps away from the Coliseum, which is where the 1932 and 1984 track and field events (and ceremonies) were held, and where 2024 would have been staged, too.

That is, literally, walkability.

Who's involved with this new stadium? Magic Johnson, the Lakers icon and -- let's remember -- Dream Team 1992 Barcelona Games star. He's now a big-time LA businessman, among other things. Also: Mia Hamm, probably the best-known American female soccer player in history, with three Olympic medals, two gold.


Would there be a referendum now in LA? Who knows?

But so much stuff is getting done now in LA: that new MLS soccer stadium, the imminent arrival of at least one and probably two NFL teams, a $6 billion fundraising campaign at USC (already at $4 billion), even the New York Times touting Los Angeles as hipster central. Plus the biggest secret in LA: $40-billion in voter-approved transit investment to be rolled out over the next 20 years, adding 102 miles of rail, not road, and almost 100 new stations. Also, a 73-story hotel and office building going up downtown that will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi — directed by the very same gentleman, Y.H. Cho, who is in charge of the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

Plus the mayor, Eric Garcetti, is a political rock star.

Oh, and the weather.

Really. You just wonder.

The awkward position the USOC has perhaps put itself in now is ensuring that the only — the one and only — place in the entire United States that is guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed, to win a referendum big on the Olympics is Salt Lake City.

You want the Games in this country sometime soon-ish? Salt Lake City 2026. There you go.

The problem there is that the Winter Games simply are not the Summer Games. The Winter Games are great. But the Summer Games are the franchise.

To be clear about one thing: throughout these past several months, the USOC has not, repeat not, been in contact with LA. They have been in the business of giving Boston a chance.

But that time is now at a close.

The USOC’s board meeting is in late June in the Bay Area. For all concerned, it should be clear by then, if not before — like, now — that this charade of a Boston bid be put down.

Suggestions and alternatives

With all that in mind, here are some suggestions:

— The USOC has said the January vote for Boston was unanimous. Not really. The endorsement of Boston, when all was said and done, may have been unanimous. The vote was not. In the interests of transparency, make public the vote: who on the board as it was then constituted voted for Boston and who for LA. Make everyone available to explain why.

— Dump Boston 2024, at the latest by the June board meeting. Sooner, if possible. Back to rule No. 1 of politics: there are a lot of really smart people in a lot of interesting offices across the United States (and IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and beyond) who have yet to take a close look at this turmoil and who, if they did, would assuredly wonder how and why this got to where it is.

And some alternatives:

— Admit Boston was a mistake. Be humble. They like it around Lausanne and elsewhere when Americans admit to humility. Endure one bad week, PR-wise. Commit to LA for 2024 and 2028, too, because 2024, given the beating the American brand has already taken these past five months, might already be a loss-leader.

— Or simply pull out entirely of 2024. Remember, always: Paris lost by just four votes for 2012 to London, and the IOC likes repeat bidders. In contrast to the American way, the French are going about their 2024 process by building community and political support slowly but surely, cobbling together the needed coalition.

— Salt Lake 2026. After the fiasco that is the 2022 race, it could be a slam-dunk winner. Even after the biggest corruption scandal in Olympic history, the IOC just might be all-too-tempted 24 years later to come back to Utah. That, friends, is called irony.

The IOC's London ticket problem

In 2005, when the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2012 Summer Games to London, it did so knowing full well the British press would come along for the ride. This, then, is what you have to expect just weeks before the opening ceremony: reports like the one in Britain's Sunday Times, alleging that representatives in more than 50 countries have been involved in selling London 2012 Olympic tickets on the black market for profit.

At issue are tickets given by the London 2012 organizing committee to each of the 204 national Olympic committees to sell at home. Each NOC typically appoints an agent to sell those tickets.

IOC rules do not allow NOCs from selling tickets abroad, from inflating ticket prices or from selling tickets to unauthorized re-sellers. The newspaper said it intends to deliver a dossier to the IOC on 27 officials controlling the tickets for 54 countries.

The IOC's policy-making executive board held a hurried telephone conference call and referred the matter to the IOC ethics commission.

The IOC issued a statement saying it takes the matter "very seriously." By all accounts there is a will to do something about it, and with due speed. It seemed evident a full resolution is unlikely before the July 27 opening ceremony. The London 2012 committee itself is not implicated; this is IOC business.

Immediate denials of wrongdoing were issued from all corners of the world, including the United States. Greg Harney, one of those identified in story, a former U.S. Olympic Committee staffer, identified in the story as a vice-president of ticket broker Cartan Tours, was said in the story to have "encouraged" the paper's undercover reporters to "set up a sham address" in "one of the 40 countries whose tickets he controls to conceal an illicit foreign sale."

Harney told the Olympic newsletter Around the Rings that his firm did not violate any rules and will "fully cooperate" with the IOC investigation.

One does wonder about the Sunday Times story when it can't get a basic fact right:

The piece identifies Harney as "organizer of the failed US bid for the 2012 Games." He was not. Again, he was a USOC staffer. Dan Doctoroff was of course the head of the New York bid.

No one in Olympic circles -- repeat, no one -- can be all that surprised that there might be issues with ticketing, and that people might say they have access to control tickets when they might or might not.

For one, ticketing is an extraordinarily complex, multi-layered affair.

For another, pretty much everyone suspects Olympic tickets were sold on the black market at prior Games.

On top of which, demand for tickets to these Games is keen, both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. It's easy to understand why. The London 2012 committee has marketed the Games brilliantly. Moreover, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are due to star. London is accessible and relatively easy to get to from everywhere.

So what, if anything, the IOC really do about it?

Dealing with the NOCs is straightforward. They fall under the auspices of the ethics commission.

Dealing with the agents -- that is more difficult.

The clear solution, of course, would be to remove from the future ticket distribution list the name of any agent found liable of misconduct. But ought such expulsion be temporary or permanent?

And how to measure misconduct? In the European Union, tickets can legally be re-sold anywhere within the union. For the sake of argument, is it fair to say that a ticket to the men's 100-meter final so transferable within so many countries in Europe without sanction ought to be restricted within, say, the remote Pacific island nation of Vanuatu simply because the luck of the draw sent a particular ticket to Vanuatu? Does that really make sense?

Yes, those are the rules -- but when rules run into supply and demand, and you mix in human creativity and ingenuity, you get what you get.


Denis Oswald, the Swiss lawyer and head of the international rowing federation who sits on the IOC executive board, told Inside the Games, a British Olympic newsletter, that simply banning agents might not be enough. He suggested that agents who can be proved to have committed wrongdoing "should no longer belong to the Olympic movement."

It would seem obvious, no matter the outcome of the ethics inquiry, that after years of confusion and whispering about the NOC ticketing process, the IOC ought to use this occasion to take a hard look at how the process works. Here is the most important reform:

Make the entire ticketing process far more transparent.

To generalize, no one understands it.

Because no one understands it, everyone thinks it's a screw job. The people who got tickets think they simply got lucky. The millions who don't think they are getting the shaft, and stories like the Sunday Times' report powerfully reinforce that notion.

The IOC has gone far in recent years in restoring public confidence in other sectors -- anti-doping, for instance. Now it needs to undertake that same effort with regards to ticketing. If it's too late to change for London, that ought to be the message for the next Winter Games, Sochi 2014, and absolutely the next Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, in 2016.

A very British row that matters well beyond Britain

LONDON -- Sign the thing, Dan Doctoroff and Jay Kriegel kept saying, the leaders of the New York 2012 bid about out of time and out of patience. It was extraordinarily late in the game, already July in 2005, the International Olympic Committee poised to decide after a campaign that had carried on for nearly two years who was going to get the 2012 Summer Games, and still this one document had yet to be executed. Too, it was late at night in Singapore, then morning, the vote now just hours away. Peter Ueberroth, the chairman of the United States Olympic Committee, simply did not want to sign the joint marketing and promotional agreement, as the document was called. It simply was not good for the USOC, he believed.

What to do?

If Ueberroth didn't sign, New York might as well withdraw from the contest. But if he did, it would be with the greatest reluctance. Moreover, everyone already knew that the Americans didn't really like the deal, or want it, and so even if he signed New York's chances were already dimmed.

Ultimately, Ueberroth agreed to a basic set of terms. Even so, New York got all of 19 votes, bounced early in the voting, won by London.

Now, as history would have it, that very same sort of document is at the heart of a disagreement between the London 2012 organizing committee and the British Olympic Assn., a dispute that underscores both the present and the future of the way cities and countries bid for the Olympic Games.

On one level, the issue is simple enough: does a one-size-fits-all marketing agreement work?

The battle has erupted here amid an annual Olympic-themed convention called SportAccord at which the International Olympic Committee's policy-making executive board also convenes. This year's convention is being staged in London; it got underway here Tuesday.

An "embarrassment," the British Olympics minister, Hugh Robertson, acknowledged Tuesday.

Four of the first five questions IOC president Jacques Rogge was asked at a news conference Tuesday related to the dispute. He dodged them all, saying the issue is for lawyers to decide.

Which is true enough.

But the reality as well is that the matter presents a far more fundamental issue --  has it become all but mandatory that a national Olympic committee be fully funded by its federal government?

The emerging trend certainly seems to suggest so. See, for example, Russia in 2014, Brazil in 2016. And, for good measure, China in 2008.

Meanwhile, the losing efforts of New York for 2012 and Chicago for 2016 offer instructive evidence to the contrary.

As does the London battle of 2012 and the ongoing case of the British Olympic Assn., complicated by personality politics involving the polarizing figure of Colin Moynihan, its chairman.

In its particulars, the dispute revolves around how one defines the word "surplus." The BOA wants more of any such surplus the 2012 Games generate. Under that joint marketing agreement, signed in 2005, it's entitled to a 20 percent cut. The BOA maintains that cut should be calculated before the costs of the Paralympics are figured in.

Get real, London 2012 says. For accounting purposes, it counters, the agreement is straightforward -- both the Olympics and Paralympics should be treated as one event. The IOC agrees with London 2012.

The BOA can hardly be faulted for seeking money. That's its job -- to get money to boost the performance of the British team.

You have to wonder, though, about the efficacy of a tactic that involves trying to obtain more money by, in effect, being widely portrayed as being against disabled people. Which the BOA has strenuously argued that it's not -- indeed, it shares office space with the British Paralympic Assn.

Though this issue has erupted publicly over the past few weeks, it seems difficult if not impossible to believe that the BOA didn't tell the IOC about it long ago, perhaps even years ago.

Why? Because this was eminently foreseeable. Like the USOC, the BOA's challenge is that it must raise its own money.

This is why the USOC has -- and by extension, American bids have -- repeatedly faced such challenges in the bid game, and why until this issue is re-framed it's not at all clear that the USOC should entertain, even for a minute, another bid.

Again -- why?

To reduce a complex economic matter to a simple math problem:

Let's say the USOC generates $100 million annually in domestic sponsorships (a tad high, perhaps, but rounding things up to make the example easier).

It's roughly seven years from the day you're awarded the Games until they're over.

That means the USOC would be walking away from some $700 million in revenue.

What national Olympic committee could afford to do that? More precisely -- without the security of a federal-government guarantee, could do so?

Is it really any wonder why Peter Ueberroth had qualms?

This math problem is why the Atlanta marketing program for the 1996 Games and the Salt Lake program in 2002 were set up differently -- staffed jointly by the local organizing committees and the USOC and marketed together with revenue shared on a sliding scale.

This, you might say, is a form of American exceptionalism.

In the Olympic movement, American exceptions have consistently been viewed dimly.

It's widely known within the movement, of course, that the USOC -- and only the USOC -- gets special broadcast and marketing revenue shares. Rogge said at a meeting early Tuesday with the summer sports federations that ongoing talks with the USOC aimed at re-calibrating those shares after 2020 are "making good progress." He declined to provide details.

The summer sports assembly, which goes by the acronym ASOIF and represents the 26 sports in the Summer Games, asked Rogge if a new deal could start sooner than 2020. ASOIF president Denis Oswald said, "It seems a long time to wait."

"The answer is no," Rogge said.

It remains uncertain, meanwhile, how the dispute between the BOA and London 2012 will ultimately be resolved.

The BOA wants to take the case to the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, the sport's world's highest tribunal; CAS has yet to say whether it will hear the case; London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe has called the BOA's move "spurious"; Oswald, who is also the IOC's chief liaison to the London 2012 Games, said the IOC believes CAS has no reason to hear the matter.

"It is an embarrassment and we need to get it sorted out," Robertson said Tuesday at a forum sponsored by a British sports journalists association.

Perhaps the time has come as well for the IOC to take a fresh look at the way it approaches marketing agreements in bid-city arrangements. Rightly or wrongly, this one has caused a significant "embarrassment" in the run-up to the 2012 Games. Fairly or not, the standardized approach has sharply limited the ability of the United States to compete for the Summer Games.

Maybe that's the sort of thing the IOC might want to get sorted out.

Update: In a move welcomed by the IOC, the BOA announced Wednesday that it had suspended the CAS case and would start talking again with London 2012 in hopes of resolving the dispute.  IOC spokesman Mark Adams observed, "It's a good thing if people are talking. As Winston Churchill would say, 'Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.' "

A most excellent first year

The U.S. Olympic Committee's announcement Tuesday of the addition of five genuinely impressive new directors to its board caps a remarkable year. All five would seem to be incredibly constructive additions. They promise to bring not only breadth, depth, institutional experience and even ingenuity to the board. The newcomers include the likes of Robbie Bach, the former president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, as well as Dave Ogrean, who over 30 years has seemingly seen and done it all in American Olympic circles and is now executive director of USA Hockey.

That the USOC, which for most of its own 32-year history has been wracked by dissension and dysfunction, could identify and recruit five all-stars for its board is testament to -- hold on here, this is gotcha kind of stuff -- process and structure.

Don't be bored. Process and structure are the product of leadership.

And, in the persons of Larry Probst, the USOC chairman, and Scott Blackmun, the chief executive, the USOC can be said to have real leadership.

It's a year, more or less, since Blackmun took over the job -- that is, since Probst hired him.



Before the USOC board convenes Thursday in Redwood City, Calif., for the meeting at which the five new members will be formally approved, it's worth taking a moment to review the year that was.

And if you allow again for a slight elasticity in the calendar, there's a powerfully symbolic way to show how far things have come, and there's an easy way to explain how and why things have indeed come so far.

Scene one: It's Copenhagen, October 2009. Chicago has just gotten booted in the first round of voting for the 2016 Summer Games despite the personal plea to the International Olympic Committee by the president of the United States of America.

Scene two: The 21 Club in New York, earlier this month. The USOC awards its first Simon Award -- named for William E. Simon, a former USOC president -- to Dan Doctoroff, the head of the New York 2012 bid, and to Pat Ryan, head of the Chicago 2016 bid. Eminently deserved, and the delightful thing is that both would accept.

That, in large measure, is because of the current USOC leadership.

And here is the secret to that leadership:

Probst is not -- repeat, not -- an all-seeing, all-knowing, Oz-like chairman. He hired Blackmun to run the USOC and, in fact, Blackmun runs it.

That is, Probst and the board set policy. Day-to-day, Blackmun runs the place.

Because Probst allows him to act as a chief executive, Blackmun actually can get things get done. And what he has gotten done is truly impressive.

Here is a partial list of Blackmun's accomplishments this year. Again, this is not -- repeat, not -- an A-to-Z list of every accomplishment:

-- Major sponsor deals with Proctor & Gamble and BMW, and in this economic climate.

-- Repairing and recasting of relationships with national governing body officials.

-- Splitting sport performance into its two logical subsets, facilities and high-performance.

-- Driving long-term strategic vision. It's all there in the board minutes, which are posted online.

-- That the board minutes are online is evidence of the open, accessible and transparent culture the USOC is trying to foster. In the same way that Probst empowers Blackmun, Blackmun lets communications chief Pat Sandusky do his thing.

-- Repairing and reframing of the key relationship with NBC. Blackmun and Probst have forged a solid working relationship with NBC Universal Sports & Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol, who had been a strident USOC critic in late 2009 but appeared at the USOC assembly in September, 2010, to offer praise. Blackmun also has worked with NBC to jointly sell the banking category,  an unprecedented marketing partnership.

-- $18 million deal with the IOC for so-called "Games costs" that sets the table for negotiation and potential resolution of longstanding dispute over marketing and broadcasting revenue splits.

-- Low-key, JFK-esque "ask not what the movement can do for you but what you can do for the movement" approach to the IOC and, for that matter, to international relations.

Nearly once a month Probst or Blackmun has been traveling abroad, or both for that matter, and not just for the Olympic version of a drive-by. Probst hung out at the Assn. of National Olympic Committee meetings in Acapulco in October for a week. Blackmun -- despite having shoulder surgery immediately beforehand -- was there nearly as long.

For anyone's first year on the job, that list makes for a pretty good record of accomplishment.

At the USOC -- it's nothing short of a culture change, and downright historic.

And it's only the first year.

Oh, and by the way -- the U.S. team won a record 37 medals at the Vancouver Olympics this past February.

Bring on 2011.